But during the ’90s comic book boom, Beeville not only had a comic book shop, it had a few. They offered an escape to another world. They inspired imagination. They kept the kids occupied.
And pacing back and forth amongst the sprawling shelves lined with the newest issues of Spider-Man, X-Men and Superman, Will Thompson wasn’t only reading and admiring the artwork, he was preparing. During school career evaluations, when the question arose as to what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answer was always: a comic book artist.
Along with reading the typical superhero fare, Thompson was led to satirical material such as MAD and Cracked magazine and realized there was an independent underbelly of comics that rebelled against the forced restrictions of the Comic Code Authority, which refused publications with violence, drug use and socially relevant content.
These books were dubbed ‘comix’.
And, as with most teens looking for more than just tights and capes, Thompson not only discovered the hilarious and thought-provoking comix from the late ’60s; he devoured them.
Having grown up in Beeville, Thompson is now a grown college student living in Kingsville and has finally achieved his lifelong goal of creating and illustrating his first ever comic book, Planet No-No Comix #1.
“The Planet No-No universe is a hodgepodge of creations that I’ve had over the years. It’s a big throwback to the underground comix of the ’60s and ’70s,” Thompson explained.
“There’s a lot of slapstick comedy, graphic violence and some profanity. It’s definitely not something for the family.”
And as if taking a long, tumultuous year and half to create one issue wasn’t enough, there came the problem of actually finding a genre-oriented publisher who would not only print the issue, but that still existed.
“I tried shopping my comic book around to independent, underground publishers, but they’re pretty much extinct,” Thompson said. “So I started looking into self-publishing and found it’s really expensive. I needed about a grand to get 250 copies made.”
And for a full-time college student, the task seemed nearly impossible. “Being an artist and a full-time student in South Texas, you’re not going to find a lot of work, and there’s not really an art scene here,” Thompson explained.
“There’s no one really trying to cultivate creativity here. If it’s not agricultural or something that has the South Texas communal theme, you’re pretty much not going to find any work.”
But a chance encounter with another local artist led him to a more cost efficient publisher and another set of problems. Due to some of the graphic qualities of Planet No-No Comix #1, the agreement with said publisher quickly went out the window, and his limited run has become very limited. But his spirit remains boundless.
Though some of the subject matter and illustrations may have made finding a publisher more difficult, it’s something Thompson is passionate about.
Thompson said, “I just want people to experience some of the types of comix that I got to experience but through my eyes and in this modern era. It’s a style that’s faded away from the subculture it created for the most part.”
Perhaps one of the most well-known underground comix artists is Robert Crumb, creator of Zap Comix. He said, “People forget that was what it was all about. That was why we did it. We didn’t have anybody standing over us saying ‘No, you can’t draw this’ or ‘You can’t show that.’ We could do whatever we wanted.”
But where have all the other merrymakers gone? Or maybe the real question is, where are the ones they inspired?
“I would really like to influence younger generations to create their own works and aspire to follow their heart.,” Thompson confided. “There’s a great deal of struggle, but it’s that feeling of accomplishment and seeing it physically manifest that makes it worth it. As soon as the first issue of Planet No-No Comix comes in, that’s a childhood dream.
“Life’s about the unexpected journey, and I’m just here to experience it for better or for worse.”
Thompson’s first issue comes out May 5 and, as of yet, will only be available at The Hobby House, 822 E. King St. in Kingsville, where Thompson will be doing an in-store signing as well on that date.
You can read Thompson’s blog at www.handdrwanproductions.tumblr.com and check out some artwork at www.facebook.com/planetnonocomix.